The World's Safest Places to Go in 2022
There’s always some degree of risk when you go on vacation. That’s why we have airbags, travel insurance, and those scratchy money belts you’re supposed to wear under your clothes to thwart pickpockets.
Still, there are destinations with stronger safety records than others. To compile our list of the safest places to visit, we sought out nations, regions, and states that have proven successful when it comes to addressing a specific issue (public health, violence, environmental destruction, and others)—though cautious travelers should keep in mind they may face other dangers.
Naturally, each category represents only a small slice of life. Safety levels will vary depending on the peril you’re concerned about. An island with low crime, for instance, may be at high risk from rising waters due to climate change. A country could have a reliable health care system but treacherous roads. And so on.
Believe it or not, a few places are still mostly untouched by Covid-19 or have achieved herd immunity status, but most of them are small specks in the ocean (Saint Helena, Pitcarin Island, Niue, and the Cook Islands) that maintained safety by making it nearly impossible for tourists to visit casually—so those places aren't on the list for now.
Instead of relying on our editors’ subjective experiences, we based our selections on stats and data-driven studies—and we’ve supplied some recommendations for how to enjoy each destination, too.
After all, there’s no reason why you can’t stay safe and have fun at the same time.
Pictured above: Stowe, Vermont
A team of international environmental scientists recently went looking for biological aerosol particles in the air over the Southern Ocean, south of Australia and New Zealand, and in 2020, they announced they had made an incredible discovery: absolutely nothing.
There wasn't even enough DNA wafting around to work with. "This region’s marine boundary layer and the clouds that overtop [are] truly pristine, free from continental and anthropogenic influences," the report concluded. To get a lung full of that air, you could always take a boat into the middle of the Southern Ocean (bring a good coat), but it's probably more fun to visit one of the nearest land masses. You'll breathe easy in Tasmania, a sparsely populated island off the southern coast of Australia. Visitors lucky enough to blow through will find a corner of the world that's packed with outdoor pleasures like national parks, bush walks, coastal hikes (like in Wineglass Bay, pictured above), and sumptuously untainted seafood pulled daily from the sea.
The remote Magallanes region at the southern tip of Chile is about as far from major cities and heavy industry as you’re able to get without a spacesuit—the tumultuous national capital of Santiago is some 2,200 miles north—and consequently, the purity of the ground water in Magallanes is matchless. In 2015, scientists found the town or Puerto Williams had the cleanest on the planet: “The instruments we used to study the samples can detect two parts of chemicals per every million parts of water, and here they detected nothing,” reported Guido Verbeck, director of the University of North Texas' Laboratory of Imaging Mass Spectrometry.
Puerto Williams has a population of less than 3,000 (so there’s almost no crime, too), but there are countess reasons to go: It’s considered the gateway to a host of epic, world-famous adventures around Patagonia, including excursions to Antarctica, tours of the glaciers in Alberto Agostini National Park, multiday hikes through the source region of the town's water in Dientes de Navarino (pictured above), and boat trips through the pristine ecosystems of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
Many factors play into which places have the best—and worst—health care systems, including access to care, affordability of services, and outcome. In 2021, the Commonwealth Fund, a health care foundation, did a deep study of the topic, looking at 71 performance measures among 11 high-income nations. It found Norway at the top of the heap. (The U.S.A., in case you're wondering, came in dead last.)
One of the reasons for the win was the country's Patients' Rights Act, a game-changing law that guarantees access to care and lets patients choose their hospitals and plans, among other benefits. In this time of pandemic, it's comforting to know that if you happened to fall ill while in Norway, the care you'd receive would be world-class.
But Norway is also a wonderful place to be healthy, especially for visitors. The cities of Oslo and Bergen (pictured above) are sophisticated, arts-rich destinations, full of some of the finest restaurants, museums, shops, and architecture on the planet. Beyond its big cities, Norway, which lies partly within the Arctic Circle, presents drama at every turn: Virgin forests are slashed by fjords, adorned with waterfalls and glaciers, and teeming with herds of reindeer and sleuths of polar bears.
For the most part, Iceland confines its violence to the Viking tales recounted in the island's history museums. The country ranked first in the 2021 Global Peace Index measuring the nations of the world by level of societal security, ongoing domestic and international conflict, and degree of militarization.
Those tranquil social conditions are balanced by some of the globe’s most exciting landscapes, involving lava fields, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and hot springs (the popular Blue Lagoon, southwest of Reykjavik, is pictured above). Travelers can rest assured that these showstopping settings for outdoor adventures are kept pristine—the 2020 Environmental Performance Index determined that Iceland has some of the planet’s safest sanitation and cleanest water.
Globally speaking, the four countries with the lowest suicide rates—1.) Antigua and Barbuda, 2.) Barbados, 3.) Grenada, and 4.) St. Vincent and the Grenadines—are all located in the Caribbean Sea. Anyone who has spent time on one of these island nations’ picture-perfect beaches is probably not shocked to discover that residents have no trouble scrounging up reasons to keep living. Tropical scenery aside, a low incidence of self-harm arguably suggests a culture that values social connections and the happiness and security of the citizenry. Those are good signs for visitors.
For a speck of paradise that combines self-care with newly reclaimed self-determination, try Barbados (pictured above), which removed the U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state in November and promptly named homegrown pop star Rihanna a national hero. With Bajan pride running high, it’s a great time to check out new improvements at the island’s natural attractions, sample local cuisine, and soak up that life-affirming sunshine.
On international measures, Costa Rica appears on top of a few categories. Thanks to a creatively proactive health system that assigns a team of nurses and doctors to every citizen, Costa Rica now has a longer life expectancy than the United States. It also has better-than-usual hospitals and health services, particularly compared with its neighbors. Costa Rica also has the highest scores in Latin America for the Global Peace Index, which measures societal safety and security (Iceland topped the overall list; see above), the degree of militarization (Costa Rica has no army), and extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict.
On the travel front, this relatively small nation (it's the size of West Virginia) remains a wonderful choice for nature lovers. Costa Rica has a surprisingly high level of biodiversity, with landscapes toggling between beach, jungle, cloud forest, and rainforest, and much of it is carefully protected within 27 national parks. Vacationers find abundant opportunities for nature walks, mountain biking, rafting, surfing, canyoning, fishing, and diving.
As if dense forests and gently rolling hills weren’t already inducements to explore Vermont on foot, U.S. traffic data shows the state has the country’s lowest per-capita fatality rate for pedestrians.
Among the worry-free ambles available to carless visitors: southern Vermont’s inn-to-inn walking tour, a self-guided, four-day hike through quintessential New England villages, past sparkling lakes, and over wooded mountains, with overnight stops at charming B&Bs along the way. Leaf-peeping in Woodstock (Sleepy Hollow Farm in nearby Pomfret is pictured above), skiing mighty Mount Mansfield, and shopping for maple syrup at a sugar house are other excellent reasons for stopping the car.
Washington has made bicycling so safe and accessible it almost seems a shame to explore the state via any other mode of transportation. The Pacific Northwest destination is a mainstay in the top spot in the League of American Bicyclists’ annual ranking of states by how well they meet more than 100 benchmarks measuring the safety and convenience of cycling policies and accommodations.
So, obviously, Washington is a great choice for a biking vacation, rewarding those on two wheels with views of orca-dotted Puget Sound in the San Juan Islands, misty rainforests and craggy coasts on the Olympic Peninsula, and the awe-inspiring peaks of the Cascade Range on old logging roads through national forests (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is pictured above).
In 2019, the World Health Organization determined that in Japan, life expectancy at birth (averaged between males and females) was 84.3 years, the best on Earth. The United States measured more than a half-decade shorter, at 78.5.
What could account for the eternal flowering of the Japanese citizen? The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition surmises that people live longer in Japan because they do the opposite of what most Americans do: Eating a lot of red meat and saturated fatty acids are outside of the norm in Japan, where residents opt instead for fish and plant foods such as soybeans as well as unsweetened drinks such as green tea. The combined menu results in less obesity and fewer cancers. Not that you could fly to Japan and order dinner right now. Since Covid-19 began, the country has been off-limits to casual visitors—but that’s another example of intelligent avoidance that has a centuries-long tradition in Japan. Careful self-protection against foreign invaders, whether they be human, dietary, or viral, has no doubt been a secret to Japan's success in longevity, and such enduring tradtions are a big reason Japan is a dream destination for so many.
Pictured: A bamboo forest outside of Kyoto, Japan